According to this article, Stanslaw Burzynski is again in legal trouble because of his “cancer clinic”. I last wrote about him a few years ago, but never fear, he’s been extracting money from desperate patients the whole time. Here’s a detailed look at what he’s been up to, and it isn’t pretty. As this new article says:
But there’s no verifiable evidence antineoplastons work. Nor are they the gentle treatment Burzynski claims them to be. He has run Food and Drug Administration–approved clinical trials on the drugs since the 1990s, during which time at least six study participants died from hypernatremia, or high levels of sodium in the blood—likely due to the sodium-rich antineoplastons. Among the victims was a 6-year-old boy.
Over the years, Burzynski has been the subject of numerous investigations and legal proceedings, brought by grand juries, the FDA and the Texas Medical Board. As it’s become more difficult to continue registering his patients in antineoplaston trials, Burzynski has treated patients in other ways, still outside the medical mainstream. He uses chemotherapy drugs in combinations that have not been scientifically tested—and whose toxicities, according to the medical board, pose an unwarranted threat to patients.
This is the downside of some of the proposals for open access to investigational medicines, and any changes to be made in the “compassionate use” system need to take this problem into account. If you just look at the existing landscape of drugs in clinical trials, and you want to get them into the hands of more sick patients, you don’t really see Burzynski. But he and his kind are out there, and if any legal loophole appears, more of them could emerge with “investigational drugs” of all sorts. Tightening the system up enough to keep them out might mean that any new openings in the system might not be so open – there might not be as much room to work in there as one might like.
The stem cell therapy field offers a useful example. There have been all sorts of cowboy therapies offered to people who have cash in hand, and Stat recently focused on just how bad the situation is. Want something to cure your parent’s Alzheimer’s, your own MS, your child’s autism? Why step right up, and never mind that there’s no actual evidence yet that stem cells can do anything for any of these conditions.
The FDA’s moves come after years of pressure from physicians and researchers who have called for a crackdown on an unproved therapy that they consider dangerous quackery. These critics say there’s no evidence the treatments work — or that some of them even contain stem cells. Yet clinics charge fees ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 per treatment, with some patients reportedly racking up bills over $100,000.
Being charged 25K for having some of your own tissue injected back into you – or maybe it’s just phosphate-buffered saline, who knows – is not much of a medical advance. But there are so many people out there looking for something, anything that might help that a market will always exist. I think we just have to make sure that we don’t inadvertently expand it.